The Cheapo Olympics Are Coming

The Olympics are on a diet. The International Olympic Committee has relaxed its requirements after decades of host cities wasting money on useless riflery ranges and velodromes. This is not because of magnanimity but because cities have stopped bidding. Paris is the host city for the 2024 Games and is currently testing the new emphasis on adaptability and temporary structures.The Paris Games will not be held in a single, ticketed Olympic Park that hosts journalists, athletes and stadiums. They will be spread throughout the city and its surrounding areas. Paris will build a few new stadiums and rely on older, temporary buildings to host the rest. The Stade de France will be the most important venue. It is more than 25 years-old. Much of the competition will take place in a variety of temporary structures scattered throughout the city. Fencing in Grand Palais, equestrian at Chateau de Versailles and breakdancing on the Place de la Concorde will all be featured (yes, there will also be a gold medal in 2024 for b-boys/-girls), as well as wrestling in front the Eiffel Tower. An opening ceremony will be held on the Seine. Parisians will not be able to miss this event, for better and worse.AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementWhat about the cost? The budget for construction (3.35 Billion Euros) is less than that for the event (3.9 Billion Euros). This is the first time this has happened. This would make 2024 Games much more affordable than those in London, Sochi or Rio. There is still time to blow Paris budget.Seine-Saint-Denis is the most targeted area for the majority of the investments. It is the suburb north and east Parisian that is the poorest in the country. Redistribution that is civic-minded In a crowded area, are there easy development spots? Why not both? Organisers believe that locating the Games center in the northern banlieue, which is often overlooked by Parisians on the ring road, will bring jobs and pride to the area. This might be the Olympics you feel good about. A Harris poll in December found that 84 percent of French support the Olympics.AdvertisementWe wanted to strengthen the ties between Paris & Seine-Saint-Denis and ensure Seine-Saint-Denis is benefitted, said Patricia Pelloux who co-directs APUR, an urbanist think tank, and was on the committee that procured the Games for Paris. This is an area that has had some difficulties, but there's a lot energy there.AdvertisementSaint-Denis will host the Olympic Village, which is located on industrial land along Seine. The dorms will then be converted into almost 3,000 apartments. Proof of concept, Pelloux says, can be found a few miles away at Clichy-Batignollesthe dream site for the Paris 2012 Olympics. London won the bid but Paris created a new community on the site of the old railway yards. It is settling in well.The 2024 Olympic Village can be found a half mile from the Stade de France. It also contains the new Olympic pool, the first of its kind in Paris since 1924 Games. This will provide a community benefit. Seine Saint-Denis sixth-graders don't know how swim.AdvertisementAdvertisementAmbre Abittan is a senior at high school and an avid tennis player. She has lived in Saint-Denis ever since she was a child. She said that it is not well-known as a city. The Olympic Games will give us a better reputation. People are very reluctant to hear that you're from here. It is shorthand for hopeless housing projects, occasional riots and the banlieue.AdvertisementOlympic investments were criticised in London and Rio de Janeiro as a harem for gentrification. This is a concern in Seine-Saint-Denis as well. The bigger concern is that the authorities are already cutting back on or delaying important promises as money tightens and deadlines get closer. Volleyball was removed from the department in December. A training pool was also cancelled in March.AdvertisementThe worst news is the delaying of three suburban subway lines, the 15, 16 and 17, that would have connected at a new station near the Olympic Village. One new Metro extension, the line 14, will reach the site just in time for competition. The 14 runs directly south from the center of Paris, unlike the 16, 17 and 15, which will eventually link the new Olympic hub to the rest Seine Saint-Denis.AdvertisementThese missing connections may not be important for athletes in nearby dorms and spectators arriving from Parisian hotels. But their absence will affect people living in the suburbs, who will have to travel by mass transit to get to the Saint-Saint-Denis Olympic center.Two stops on Line 15 would have been required to get you from the Olympic Village to the nearby Olympic training pool, which is being built a few miles east of Aubervilliers. It is now a 40-minute bus ride over the canal, under the tracks, along narrow streets lined with boulangeries and kebab shops as well as pharmacies, discount stores, and clothing shops selling saris and suits.AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementThis is a clear indication of the small impact Paris 2024 has had on Paris. With three years remaining, the training pool remains the most controversial project in the country. It would dispense with a number of plots from the local community garden that has been providing space for generations to relax and plant. They carry rolling grocery bags filled with tomatoes and lettuce as they make their way to work. Like many community gardens, its defenders claim it is a valuable asset to the neighborhood. In fact, it opened its doors for the first time to the general public.AdvertisementAdvertisementThe camp is surrounded by straw-and-mud barricades and a group of young squatters hailing from all over the country. They have set up camp here, putting their feet on pebbles and crushed fruits to make themselves comfortable. On the other side, you will find the bulldozers. One of the resisters said concretes are not going to feed us. Concretes are not going to feed us, one of the resisters says. (In French, it rhymes. No to gentrification.Karim Ben Amira (a father of four, who has lived in the area for over a dozen years) offered a different perspective at the Caf Casanova. He said that he would like to see something for his children, and referred to the new pool as a training pool. He would like to see his children have a swimming pool. Take a look around. There is nothing there, not a caf or a football field. It will make the neighborhood vibrant, despite what is happening to the worker gardens. You cant satisfy everyone.